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Brain Lang. 2000 Jun 15;73(2):236-53.

Evolution of hemispheric specialization: advantages and disadvantages.

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Division of Zoology, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.


Lateralization of the brain appeared early in evolution and many of its features appear to have been retained, possibly even in humans. We now have a considerable amount of information on the different forms of lateralization in a number of species, and the commonalities of these are discussed, but there has been relatively little investigation of the advantages of being lateralized. This article reports new findings on the differences between lateralized and nonlateralized chicks. The lateralized chicks were exposed to light for 24 h on day 19 of incubation, a treatment known to lead to lateralization of a number of visually guided responses, and the nonlateralized chicks were incubated in the dark. When they were feeding, the lateralized chicks were found to detect a stimulus resembling a raptor with shorter latency than nonlateralized chicks. This difference was not a nonspecific effect caused by the light-exposed chicks being more distressed by the stimulus. Instead, it appears to be a genuine advantage conferred by having a lateralized brain. It is suggested that having a lateralized brain allows dual attention to the tasks of feeding (right eye and left hemisphere) and vigilance for predators (left eye and right hemisphere). Nonlateralized chicks appear to perform these dual tasks less efficiently than lateralized ones. Reference is made to other species in discussing these results.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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